Engaging With Cause-and-Effect Relationships Through Creating Comic Strips
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In order to fully comprehend reading materials, students need to understand the cause-and-effect relationships that appear in a variety of fiction and nonfiction texts. In this lesson, students learn cause-and-effect relationships through the sharing of a variety of Laura Joffe Numeroff picture books in a Reader's Workshop format. Using online tools or a printed template, students create an original comic strip via the writing prompt, “If you take a (third) grader to….” Students use various kinds of art to illustrate their strip and publish and present their completed piece to peers in a read-aloud format.
Use this interactive tool to help younger students create a basic comic strip.
From Theory to Practice
- Readers understand more and retain information better when a text is written in cause-and-effect patterns than they do when a text is written in an enumeration-description frame.
Common Core Standards
This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.
This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.
NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts
- 1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
- 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
- 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
- 5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
- 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
- 8. Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
- 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).
Materials and Technology
- Any of the following Laura Joffe Numeroff picture books: If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, If You Give a Pig a Party, If You Give a Cat a Cupcake, If You Take a Mouse to School, If You Take a Mouse to the Movies
- Computers with Internet access and printer(s)
- Notebook paper, white paper, colored pencils, crayons, fine tip markers
- Document projector and screen
- Gather your selection of Laura Joffe Numeroff picture books and familiarize yourself with the various cause-and-effect relationships in each book.
- If you want students to use the interactive tools Comic Creator or Make Beliefs Comix, review and bookmark the tool on the computers the students will be using. If you’d prefer to provide students with a preprinted template, go to the Comic Strip Planning Sheet, select and print a template, and make the appropriate number of copies for students.
- Review the Comic Strip Checklist and the Comic Strip Rubric. Print out one copy of each for every student.
- Develop reading comprehension skills by identifying cause-and-effect relationships from sample book texts and in other students’ original works
- Formulate cause-and-effect relationships using an online or worksheet tool to organize and create a comic strip
- Enhance listening and oral presentation skills through presentation of their completed comic strip
- Develop skills in narrative writing and story illustration by independently creating an original story via a supplied writing prompt
- Identify and interpret cause-and-effect relationships of peers’ original works
Session 1: Identifying Cause-and-Effect Relationships
- Introduce the concept of cause-and-effect with some simple sentences. On the board, write the following two sentences.
a. The students stayed in and played board games during recess.
b. It was raining outside during recess time.
Explain to students that the cause of something is always what happens first and the effect is the resulting outcome (or what happens second). Have a student volunteer go to the board and label which event he or she thinks happened first and which happened second. Once the student has successfully identified that sentence b happened first and was the cause of the students staying inside and playing board games during recess, explain that sentence a is the effect of sentence b.
- Ask a student volunteer to write a new, action-oriented sentence on the board. (You may want to instruct the student to finish a prompt, such as “The dog…”) Next, invite another student to go to the board and write an effect to go with the first sentence. For example, the first student might write, “The dog ran across the street,” and the second student could write, “The car hit its breaks and honked at the dog.” Note that for younger students, you may need to provide the prompts on the board and have students complete the sentences.
- Invite students to write one cause and one effect sentence on their individual dry erase boards, on notebook paper, or in their reading journals, and turn and share with the person sitting directly beside them. At this time, it is imperative that you circulate among the students and offer assistance if and when a student is demonstrating difficulty understanding the concept.
- After the pair-and-share session, invite one or two student volunteers to share their sentences with the entire class, and reinforce which is the cause and which is the effect.
- Tell students that often an author uses cause and effect as an element of story writing and that cause-and-effect relationships are used to explain many science and social studies concepts. Explain that today students are going to listen to a read-aloud and determine the multiple cause-and-effect situations that the main character encounters.
- Gather students together and share the picture book If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. Ask student volunteers to share what they may already know about this book (i.e., Who is the main character? What types of things happen in the book?). Explain to students that you are going to read the book aloud and identify the cause-and-effect relationships throughout the book.
- Use a think-aloud after each cause-and-effect relationship to model and identify the relationship to the students. For example, read the first two pages of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie and say, “I gave the mouse a cookie, and this caused him to want a glass of milk. So, I’m thinking that eating the cookie caused him to get thirsty and getting the glass of milk was the effect.” Alternatively, have student volunteers identify the relationships as you stop for the think-alouds.
- Create groups of 3–5 students. Give one of the Numeroff books to each group. Tell students to work with their group to list all of the cause-and-effect relationships in their group’s book. Have students pick one team member to read the book aloud, one to record the number of relationships, and one to share their findings with the class.
- Allow students approximately 15 minutes to complete this group activity. Upon completion, have various groups share their answers, as class time permits.
- Explain to students that tomorrow’s project is creating their own cause-and-effect stories in a comic strip format.
Sessions 2 & 3: Comic Strip Creation
- Conduct a brief review session with students to access prior knowledge of cause and effect and to recall the picture book examples from yesterday’s lesson. You can accomplish this by displaying the read-aloud text from Session 1.
- If students are using Comic Creator or Make Beliefs Comix, access the bookmarked website and display it on a projector. If you are using printable templates, display a sample template on a document camera or overhead and project it for the entire group to see. Explain to students that, as referenced at the close of yesterday’s lesson, today’s lesson involves creating their own cause-and-effect story in the form of a comic strip, meant to be shared in a read-aloud format with the class when completed.
- Based on the format or website you have selected, model the creation of a comic strip with the following prompt, “If you give a teacher a…” Model the steps to complete a six-panel comic strip. (This results in three cause-and-effect relationships). Model how to write captions and drop art and illustrations into each panel. Explain to students that once they print their comic strips, they can use art materials to add additional drawings and colors. Be sure to emphasize this so that students don’t get concerned if their comic strip calls for an illustration that isn’t available in Comic Creator or Make Beliefs Comix.
- After completing the teacher modeling process, introduce the prompt that students should use to build their strip, “If you take a (third) grader to…” Explain to students that they need to brainstorm three cause-and-effect relationships to create their six-panel strip. (Note that older students may want to create longer strips.)
- Distribute the Comic Strip Checklist and the Comic Strip Rubric to students. Review the checklist and explain that students need to check off each section as they complete it. Review the rubric and explain that their comic strips will be evaluated and graded based on this rubric. Tell students that their checklist, completed comic strip, and rubric should be turned in after their oral presentations.
- Have students use notebook paper to brainstorm their story. Upon completion, instruct students to share their story with you for approval prior to beginning their work on the computers.
- Have students access Comic Creator or Make Beliefs Comix and then create and print their six-panel comic strip, or have them take their template and create their comic strip.
- After the comic strips are created, distribute art materials and allow students to add any additional illustrations, colors, and designs to their comic strips.
Session 4: Student Sharing
- Explain to students that today is when they share their completed strips with their classmates.
- Gather students to the read-aloud area and have student volunteers take the “author’s chair” and share their comic strips with their classmates. At this time, call on students to identify the different cause-and-effect relationships they have heard during their peers’ stories.
- Collect completed stories, checklists, and rubrics at the close of class for grading.
- Gather a collection of comic strips for students to access during free or independent reading time as a reference when creating their own comic strips.
- Share with students a nonfiction leveled reader that contains cause-and-effect relationships (i.e., science readers about weather or socials studies readers about causes and effects of the Revolutionary or Civil Wars.) Use this activity to explain how cause-and-effect relationships exist in the real world through science and history.
Student Assessment / Reflections
- Observe student participation in think-aloud sessions and group work to assess that all students comprehend the cause-and-effect relationships in both story texts and other students’ original works.
- Review each student’s Comic Strip Checklist, and make certain all components have been successfully completed prior to accessing the selected interactive tool. Note that successful completion includes accurate cause-and-effect relationships.
- Observe each student’s ability to orally present their comic strips along with their ability to be active listeners while peers are sharing.
- Use the Comic Strip Rubric to determine and evaluate students’ abilities to apply learned information on an independent level.